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You May Soon Be Able to Sign Your Will Electronically

October 26, 2019

The past Summer, the Uniform Law Commission - an organization that is tasked with drafting legislation that can be enacted by the various states in a consistent way - approved a document known as the Electronic Wills Act. The EWA represents the first step in an attempt to modernize the practice by which individuals execute their wills.

 

In the traditional (and current) situation, a person is required to sign a physical ink-and-paper will in person. Furthermore, in order to avoid extensive attorney's fees in the future, most wills are also set up to be self-proved. This means that, in addition to the person who signs the will, there should be two witnesses and a notary public present as well.

 

Sometimes, getting all of these people together can be difficult. This is where electronic signing comes in. Under the EWA, a person can sign their will on a digital device or computer - rather than ink and paper. Additionally, witnesses who are not also physically present can witness the will, so long as it is witnessed and notarized contemporaneously (or at the same time as the signing of the will). This puts us much closer to the science-fiction type of reality of the Sykpe Will than we have ever been before.

 

The EWA has not been enacted in Texas, so it won't yet impact people in my community in and around Abilene. However, it probably won't be much longer before the EWA is taken up in the Texas legislature.

 

Are electronic wills a good thing? On the whole, I think they are both a good and an inevitable thing. During my career, electronic signing and filing of documents in litigation and other matters has moved from a rare oddity to a standard practice. There are many important documents that get filed with court clerks and administrative agencies that never exist in a physical, paper form, and the change doesn't seem to have had any negative impact on those processes. In fact, they have only made things quicker and more efficient. There is no reason to believe that the same thing won't apply to electronic wills.

 

The next time you update your will, don't be surprised if your family lawyer asks you if you want to do it electronically. There is a good chance that it will soon be a reality.

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